Civil War Louisiana (CWLA)

Civil War Louisiana (CWLA)
CWLA seeks to provide an online resource of any and all material of the Civil War relating to Louisiana with a special interest in the war in Acadiana in southwest Louisiana.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Delta Rifles, Part III

We continue John McGrath's account of the Delta Rifles of the 4th Louisiana Infantry. This is the coninuation of his story that ran in the December 16, 1921 edition of the Woman's Enterprise. Last time McGrath gave an account of the regiment up to its arrival at Camp Moore. This is where we pick back up...

The Delta Rifles
Get off at Last and Proceed to New
Orleans on the Way to Camp
Moore-Lost Liquor and First
Delta to Be Placed Und-
er Arrest - Stump

...The long, hot trip ended at last on arrival at Camp Moore where we detained to the intense disgust and after earnest protest the order was obeyed to unload the camp equipage and private luggage. This was the first manual labor many of the "Kid Glove Company" ever performed and worst was to come for no sooner had the cars been unloaded than the boys were furnished axes and grubbing hoes and put to clearing up ground covered by scrub oak and other small growth for our tents and company street. Oh, the blistered hands and aching backs! Yet these young gentlemen complained less than aggregation of rough necks known as the Tiger Rifles would have done.
While the boys were thus engaged the officers' negroes were loaned to us to cook dinner which consisted of wheat bread, beef, beans, potatoes, rice and coffee, good substantial food but bless you, our dainty lads refused to eat it. For the first time since leaving home I became angry when on fellow after being served, threw the food on the ground remarking as he did so "Hell, I wouldn't feed my nigger such stuff as that." "No," said I, "dam you, if I do not miss my guess about this war the time will come when you would pick that food out of the sand and eat it." They one and all in time were glad enough to receive a ration of corn bread and a small piece of bacon for a day's allowance.
Tents pitched and everything in order, details were made from guard duty, drilling was begun and formation of a regiment accomplished, between and after which sports of all kinds were indulged in and the boys seemed quite contented with military life. Early during this period of activity the ranks began to lose some of its most popular men. The first loss was the promotion of four, Thomas Gibbs Morgan was commissioned a Captain in the Seventh Louisiana, Dudley Avery a Lieutenant in the Eighteenth, Ben Cooley a Lieutenant in the Fourteenth, Marshall Pope regimental surgeon while Henry Watkins Allen became Lieutenant Colonel of the Fourth to which regiment the Delta Rifles were attached.

Within a few days after our arrival companies from every section of the State arrived daily until there were some nine or ten thousand men being broken into military life. Soon an epidemic of measles accompanied by other diseases broke out, resulting in numerous deaths, some claim that as many as 800 died at Camp Moore from first to last, but a more conservative claim put deaths at 600. Some 25 or 30 regiments were at one time or another at that camp, say 30,000 men. Every man who died at that time and place died while in the service of the State and previous to being transferred to the Confederate States for immediately upon being mustered and accepted by the Confederacy the regiments were sent to Virginia, Kentucky or elsewhere.

While disease was playing havoc among the troops strange to say that, not a single man of the Delta Rifles experienced the least sickness during the stay of that company. The measles seemed to be confined to troops from country life.

While deaths were numerous the Deltas performed all required duties and between time indulged in all kinds of sports including boxing contest and the only matter of serious import was when called out to suppress a rioting of the company known as the Tiger Rifles. The for the first time ball cartridges were served and inserted into our guns.

It seems that the mutineers refused to perform duty as ordered and defied authority to do their worst and Gen. Tracy in command determined to subdue them. So the Delta Rifles were chosen to enforce obedience to the laws. Ranks formed we marched to where the Tigers were assembled, accompanied by the Adjutant General who ordered the mutineers to form ranks and obey orders. This they flatly refused to do but instead began cursing the Kid Glove Deltas and daring them to fire. We were then ordered to load and come to a ready and the Adjutant General taking out his watch notified the malcontents that he would give them just two minutes to form ranks and unless they obeyed in that time he would order us to fire up on them. At first they laughed and guyed him but noticing the firmness of the Deltas and believing they would fire at the command they were in ranks before the expiration of the two minute limit. Strange to say these toughs had a more friendly feeling for us than for any other troops in camp and many of them honored us as visitors and when we entrained to leave the Tigers turned out in full force to bid us a farewell.

On the 25th of May 1861 a Confederate officer from Richmond arrived in camp to muster the Fourth Louisiana Infantry into the Confederate service when ranks were formed, the roll called, each held up a hand while the oath of allegiance was administered and at last after several months in the service of the State we became Confederate soldiers and left for points assigned us next day.

McGrath's story of the Delta Rifles will continue in later posts...

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Coppens' Zouave Battalion

Coppens' Zouave Battalion
Lt. Colonel George Coppens (seated) and brother, Captain Marie Alfred Coppens.Image sold at auction on Cowan Auctions, for $14,375